Monday, April 14, 2008

Trust Your “Breaks”

It’s good to be back; back to the hustle and bustle; back to street musicians playing jazz on subway platforms and of course, back to Central Park, where I was sideswiped by a bike on my 13-miler today. Yes, as if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been away for the past week, taking a short break away from work. No internet access meant no blogging during the trip. But, I did have a few relevant thoughts that I jotted down while I was away that I wanted to share.

Hockey and basketball players usually take one or two days off to do this. Football players can take almost a whole week. Even baseball players, who arguably seem to be doing more of it when they’re on the diamond than when they’re not, perform much better after they’ve done it than when they don’t. Yet, it is surprising to me that there are some runners who either don’t believe in it or just don’t do it, and many others who don’t pay enough attention to it. In my opinion, it is the single biggest mistake that prevents us middle-of-the-pack runners from reaching our fullest potential at our distance events.

What, this “it” is, my dear RBFs, is the idea of rest and recovery, or taking sufficient time away from the road in some kind of proportion to the time you spend on it. Although the concept is basic and simple to implement during the off-season or at the beginning of the running season, it inevitability becomes less important and easily forgotten as we increase the miles and approach the peak of training for our long distance events. As a result of this seemingly innocent mistake, we develop dead legs, tired egos, not to mention a host of overuse injuries that may sideline us for the rest of the season. I believe I’ve detailed my own battles with this condition (in the old post titled A Cautionary Tale From a Running Schizophrenic), so I will not repeat my story here. Suffice it to say that my adventures last summer has made me realize the importance of rest days and its effects on my performance on the road. Not only so, but it has completely changed my perspective on the term. Whereas I used to regard rest days as an annoyance and an excuse to be lazy, I now perceive it as a time during which I’m allowing my body to heal itself and become stronger in preparation for my next run. As a consequence, I no longer blame myself or feel guilty for taking a break, whether scheduled or unscheduled. Instead, I focus on the positive benefits of resting, both physical and psychological, and anticipate the fresh legs I will have for tomorrow’s run.

All I'm saying, runners, is that in order to run well, you must rest and recover well. Don't neglect to remember to step off the pedal every once in a while, especially during high mileage weeks, to allow your body to heal. Trust your "breaks". After all, didn’t God Himself take a breather on the seventh day after working hard to create the heavens and the earth on the first six?


Andrew is getting fit said...

Great advice, especially for a beginning runner like myself.

Run For Life said...

Being sideswiped by a bike sounds intense and invokes a pained facial expression! I hope it wasn't too bad.

I hear you on the rest days...I'm trying to get myself to believe this (the guilt is what I need to work on.) Perhaps because so many runners have Type-A personalities we just don't want to rest. Or maybe we're all a little nuts.

running private said...

Too right... I hate taking breaks from it, besides after a marathon when you actually physically can't!
I'm getting one next week though and I have to say I'm not the happiest with the idea of it... It's almost as if you can feel yourself getting unfitter the longer you don't run! I'm sure the beach will help me see past that though

Irish Cream said...

Lam, you're so wise! I have been working hard on trying to believe this lately . . . but it's still difficult. I just get too stir-crazy on my off days. But perhaps I should look at that pent-up energy as an energy supply I can make use of during my next run . . . you may be on to something there. At any rate, it's good to have you back :)

Nibbles said...

Hear, hear!

(By the way, you are NOT a middle-of-the-pack runner.)

Nitmos said...

I'm a big fan of breaks. I'm looking forward to another 2 weeker here soon. Runners need 'em. But I think the runner's family may need 'em more sometimes!

KimsRunning said...

Welcome back Doc!!!

I hope you didn't get too hurt by the bike!! I got bit by a dog in January at the end of a 10 miler!

My coach is big on resting the day after a long run too. I had never run before so I just do what I'm I'm also doing free weights so I kind of take turns between running and weight training. I do hop on the stationary bike or elliptical on non-running days.

I pulled a hip flexor in January that resurfaced after the marathon. I haven't had a decent run in 6 weeks. I am very, very frustrated. My coach keeps telling me to give it sufficient time. I see that I'm not sleeping as well and getting headaches again. I'm not sure if not running has anything to do with either, I just know I wish I could go for a nice run. Maybe Friday.

Christine said...

Does moving up and down 3 flights of stairs constitute as a break? haha. I had to take 5 days off running to move everything from one condo to the next. My knees are hurting more than when I run. AHHHHH! Back to square one. Now I can't take a break..because technically I've been taking one..but not really. This is so confusing right? What do i DO?

Jamie said...

Welcome back! I'm a big fan of breaks even if I still do feel a bit guilty about taking them.

bill carter said...

Hi Lam

This is such a great post and a reminder that we only become better runners when we let our bodies recover. I am totally guilty (as are you!) of not liking to take days off and actually feeling guilty about it. It makes me laugh to read your posts because know that you have a kindred spirit here in Michigan. I have a feeling were pretty darn similar in regard to our take on life and also our running.

Best of luck with all the things you do.

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